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Scarlett Johansson Feeds Hungry Children

2009 WebMD Health Hero Scarlett Johansson is on a mission to feed hungry kids for a very personal reason. She used to be one of them.

Scarlett Johansson Skips the Oscars

Curtis says that Johansson, who's been named to just about every Most Beautiful People list on the planet, "is more beautiful on the inside than she is on the outside. When we go to places like New Orleans, I have to drag her away for her own good or she'd stay talking to people forever. The girl's serious, there's no doubt about that."

That was clear in 2007, when Johansson skipped the Academy Awards to travel to India and Sri Lanka with Oxfam, after learning about the charity while filming the Woody Allen film Match Point in London. She was so overwhelmed by the poverty she saw there, and the determination of oppressed women and girls to make better lives for themselves, that she offered to support four schools in a rural Uttar Pradesh area that educate children from the untouchable Dalit caste. (Only 3% of Dalit women in the province can read or write.)

"Not going to the Oscars got just as much press for Oxfam as I would have for whatever dress I wore on the red carpet," laughs Johansson, who's also been to Rwanda with the (RED) campaign against AIDS, and plans to visit Bangladesh next year with Oxfam.

"It's so difficult to see people who are struggling, but that's part of life. You can't just shut yourself off to things that are unpleasant or hard to talk about. You just have to jump into it with open arms and embrace the humanity of the condition that you're witnessing. It's also incredible to revisit places I've seen in times of devastation and see the money really working, the Lazarus effect. That's when you feel like, OK, I'm doing the right things, I'm involved with the right charities."

For Johansson, even a sneeze is an opportunity to help those charities. During an appearance on The Tonight Show last December, host Jay Leno teased Johansson that the tissue she'd just sniffled into would fetch a pretty penny on eBay. She immediately agreed to sell it -- so long as the proceeds went to USA Harvest. The crumpled tissue, in an autographed plastic baggie, eventually fetched a rather stunning $5,300. (It might have gone for more since Johansson claimed she'd gotten the cold from Samuel L. Jackson while they filmed The Spirit together, giving the tissue a double-celebrity pedigree.)

This 24/7 attitude that infuses Johansson's philanthropic work is something she's learned from her own hero, Bono, who recruited her to work with (RED) the first time they met.

"He's used his star power to be the voice of millions of people, and he incorporates it into everything he does. When he's in concert, he talks to the audience and projects the images of what he's seen in his charity work on a huge screen in front of 25,000 people," she says. "His outreach is huge, and it's constant; it's just a way of life for him."

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